Direct mail, mailing lists, copywriting, direct response

by Bency Jones
Make Direct Mail Work for You

Everybody says that they hate junk mail. And yet, seemingly in secret, they open it. All of the research shows that, done correctly, direct mail works. There are countless case studies, which show how effective this medium is. However - I think that all marketers have had spectacular direct mail failures. You know the sort of thing: where you send out thousands of mailshots and basically get a zero response rate.

There are many reasons why this can happen. Here are some typical explanations:


  • The mailers have gone to the wrong people
  • This is the first time they've heard of you / this product
  • There isn't a good offer
  • Your copy is not compelling enough
  • There aren't enough 'reasons to buy / respond'
  • The mailer is poorly produced
  • The price is too high ("It's far too expensive")
  • The price is too low ("It must be rubbish")
And so on and so forth. Like so many things in life, direct mail looks deceptively simple. However, making it work effectively is a combination of art, science, trial, error and perspiration! (Actually, this holds true for most things in life).

Your Mailing List
The foundation for any long term direct mail campaign is your mailing list.  From bitter experience I can tell you that no list will ever be as good as your own list.

The Offer
A great offer comprises a good perceived price and the way in which you package up your proposition. The offer will be based on your knowledge of your market. What factors are they likely to respond to?  Have they bought this type of product or service before?
If you don't know - do some research and try testing your offer.

Well written copy can of course make or break a direct mail shot. My advice is to use a professional copywriter. They can make a dramatic difference to your business results. I'm always amazed that so many of my clients feel that they are naturally able copywriters. Many of them will spend ages tinkering with professionally produced copy. The key problem is that, all too often, the message then becomes diluted.

If you would like me to recommend a copywriter to you - send me an email.

Long Copy or Short Copy?
This is an old chestnut, if ever there was one. The simple answer is that long body copy (i.e. lots and lots of words) does indeed sell better. The reason lies in the selling process itself. You and I know that most of your letters will go in the bin - because your offer isn't of interest to most readers, at that particular time.

However, if someone is in the market (or suddenly decides to become so because they are intrigued by your mailer), they will be happy to 'read all about it'. If you think about your last significant purchase, you may well have spent quite a bit of time researching it. So, if a prospect gets a fascinating mailer which sparks their interest - they will be happy to read every single word you send them (particularly if the product is highly priced, or there is a significant commitment of some sort).

Be Emotional
Time and again, direct mail results prove that the emotional appeal will outsell cold, logical argument. So become passionate about what you do! Your audience will love you for it - as long as you 'do it right'. If you are selling something you really believe in (and I hope, for your sake, that you are), tell the readers of your direct mail about it with enthusiasm and passion.

Additional Inserts
Besides a letter, should you include additional inserts? Well, if the likes of Readers Digest, American Express and Time Life books are anything to go by - the answer has got to be 'Yes'. Additional inserts reinforce your message. In a business to business mailer, here are some ideas of 'mailing pieces' which you could add into your mailers:
  • A reply paid card, complete with tick boxes
  • For B2B (Business to Business) mailers, a faxback form, requesting further information / you to contact them
  • A page of testimonial statements from your clients
  • Some print outs from your web site
  • Mini case studies - showing how others have benefited from dealing with you
  • A leaflet
  • An order form
Time and again, I have seen my clients carefully prepare a mailshot, send it off and wait for the response. They used to ask me what sort of response they should expect. I dutifully told them that 2% or 3% was a typical response rate for an industrial mailing. However, all too often, they received close to a zero response rate.

I came to realise that if their name was unknown, or if this was a new campaign, that a zero response rate for the first few mailers was quite normal. This is what advertisers would expect. They know that recall / response to the first few ads is non-existent. It is only after the brand name / offer has been repeated that response starts to kick in.

Admittedly, direct mail should get better results than this - because you are (hopefully) sending your mailers to tightly defined groups of people who are likely to be in the market for whatever you sell. (Um, you are doing this, aren't you?).

When will your prospect receive the mailer? Many of my clients won't mail, for example, between December 15th and January 15th. The traditional 'business seasons' for B2B direct mail are mid September to November and mid January to June. Rules are of course, there to be broken. In your case, I would suggest that if you are keen to try mailing in the 'dead periods', try testing out response, before you over commit yourself.
Buy a wall planner. Plan for a series of direct mailshots over the coming months. In your diary, block in time to work on your direct mail plans. The real objective is to make direct mail a habit. It should become part of the 'way we do things around here'.

Another idea is writing hand written notes to your best clients / customers. You can use notepaper or postcards to do this. The message should be short and personal. Tell them what's happening in your business and especially about any special ideas or offers which are coming up.

One of the biggest advantages of direct mail is that you can test a variety of approaches, with little risk involved. I'm such a fan of testing, that I always seem to be talking about it in my seminars.

In direct mail, you can test:
  • Different offers (e.g. prices, quantities, etc)
  • Headlines, bodycopy
  • Response from different groups
  • Different response mechanisms
Postcards are a great way of keeping in touch. You can have your own postcards printed inexpensively. When you come to send them out - all you have to do is add an address label, shoot them through your franking machine and post them! Sure beats mailmerging, signing, folding, stuffing and sealing, doesn't it?

If you do print your own postcards - you can of course have the message printed on the reverse of the postcard at the same time (perhaps in dark blue?). However, I recommend that you leave a few blank - so that you can hand write a few cards to some of your special clients.

Recycled paper
Lastly, please use recycled paper for your direct mailshots!

About Bency Jones Freshman     

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Joined APSense since, June 3rd, 2009, From Surrey, United Kingdom.

Created on Dec 31st 1969 19:00. Viewed 0 times.


Rafal Mly Advanced   Internet marketer and blogger
That's very interesting blog, thanks for sharing the info.

Jun 25th 2009 03:25   
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